Monday, October 5, 2015

Soft Skills Are the New Black

I’ve had some unique opportunities in my career to work with incredibly bright people. They had decades of experience, knew the industry inside and out, and could piece together all of the complex parts of a health system to move things forward.

They were really something…except for one minor little detail.

Being Human
One of the great downfalls of executive leadership (ahem, read here — excuse) is the focus on results exclusively. Yes, results are very important. Without them organizations would cease to exist. However, when results are the only thing considered something equally as important is lost.

The hard skills that are often associated with talented leaders fail to provide most of the leadership necessary in today’s world of work. At the executive level competency is a requirement, just as the specialized management path those leaders have been on is important before they move into a generalized management role. Otherwise the opportunity to move into the executive ranks would never have materialized in the first place.

But the obsession with results comes at a high cost.

Leading Human
One of my new mantras is the following...

Relationships first…results second.” 

Without those other skills…soft skills…leaders quickly earn a reputation as a hard-ass-know-it-all. 

Other leaders scramble to manage the messages these people send…or pull them aside for special ‘coaching’ sessions to try and avoid plummeting morale, or outright migrations of talented people who don’t want to work with such hard-nosed and arrogant leaders.

Laughing off soft skills as unimportant is like walking down the hallways of your organization and insulting your employees to their face. 

Employees want to work in a good place. Relationships make organizations good. Arrogance destroys them.

How About You
Have you brushed up on your soft skills lately; or, are you too busy promulgating your vision for how to save the organization? Maybe you need to slow down the next time you pass a mirror and take a good long look. If you have problems in every area of the organization, well, maybe the problem is you.

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

An Ocean Between Us

I think a whole bunch of leaders are scared to do their jobs. I'm serious. The pressure of leading in today's world is scary even for those of us that have been leading for a long time. What are they afraid of? Well, it's actually more like who?  It's not their boss, or their customers, or their vendor partners.

They're afraid of their employees.

Myth #1 - Leaders Are Too Busy
Newsflash! Everyone is busy! When leaders try to explain to the team that the reason they are unavailable is they're too busy it is embarrassing. Guess what? Your employees are busy too! Those lame excuses don't cut in 2015. (heck, they didn't cut it in 1915 for that matter)

The cop out strategy that leaders have used for years is the open door policy. Ha! Fail again! This ancient approach was designed for the sole convenience and power of the leader. Think about it...

"Welcome to my office, the one your coworkers just watched you come in to and close the door to speak with me. I'll be here behind my big desk reinforcing that I have all the power. Thank you making me feel better about myself."

Open doors are only good for one thing...walking out of them. When we stop thinking about our own convenience, and begin to place the employees above ourselves we will finally learn what it means to have an engaged workforce. Until that time, we will be trapped in a never ending cycle of corporate spin that isn't fooling anyone.

Myth #2 - Leaders Are Good Communicators
Consider the biggest time killer on every leader's calendar. Meetings. Don't tell me it's focusing on customers, or employees, or the competition. Meetings dominate life.  If we're going to break the cycle of dominance that meetings play in the modern world of work, effective leaders will need to schedule time to use the open door policy the way it was intended.

Get off your butt...walk out the door...and start talking to your team members. Really talk with them. Don't parade around as if their life is changing because you've stopped by. They don't care about you that much.

They want leaders who will genuinely listen.
They want leaders who will follow up.
They want leaders who will invest the time to understand what is really happening.
They want leaders who will make decisions to make their work life better.

How About You
Are you comfortable walking the halls of your company? What about the hot spots in your organization? By the way, you have them whether you want to hide in your office and make excuses or not. Get moving...start leading...and make a difference.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, September 28, 2015

War Ensemble


Battle Ready
The world of work is loaded with lots of twists and turns. I love (kidding myself that I’m actually able) to be in control. 

The pace is simply too fast to stay ahead. The rush I get is trying to balance all of my responsibilities in the moment.

Think white-water rafting in a power suit.

For me, it’s no longer about taking the time to step back and plan a neat little strategy that feels so perfect that it’s impossible to fail. That’s what inexperienced leaders think actually happens.

The reality for me is to balance all of the action, the waves, the hits, the setbacks, and the think-fast-on-your-feet moments that separate progress from stagnation.

Battle Tested
So how do you know when you’ve moved from a panicked leader who is scared to make a mistake, to one who is looking for the next wave of treacherous challenges with anticipation?

You’ll know because the work will feel different.
You’ll know because the butterflies you used to feel will now get you fired up.
You’ll know because you won’t want any other member of the team to handle the big stuff.

How About You
Work isn’t really like war. But that doesn’t mean you should’t get yourself pumped up like never before. This week could be the biggest week of the year. But only if you decide to make it so. Are you ready?

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Social Leader

I talk a lot about the power of social media in the business world. It has become a primary communication, marketing, recruiting, networking and branding channel to reach more people better and faster than at any time in history. It doesn’t really matter if I wanted the world to become a digital place…or if I was hoping the world of work would be completely dominated by these tools. It wasn’t up to me…or you. But I decided to embrace it instead of resisting.

I consider myself a social leader.

Social has taken over…and I pity the leaders who still believe resisting is actually an option. They look old…they look out of touch…and candidly I would never work for someone that far behind. Ever.
(hint…no one else under the age of 35 will either…)

Think for a moment about the tools patients use every day to gather information. They use the web…they use social media…they read blogs.

If you’re a healthcare leader and you’re not using these tools how in the world are you supposed to connect with your patients?

Think for a moment about how people look for jobs? They use the web…they use social media…they read blogs.

If you're leading an organization that is trying to hire talented people to help you execute your strategic plans (think —> every hospital everywhere) how in the world are you supposed to connect with applicants and differentiate yourself from your competitors?

Sometimes people label me as the social media guy, and fail to see the link between my acceptance of the world as a digital place and my skills and experience. It’s as if being a social leader negates all of the work I’d done prior to the last few years. 

It makes me laugh sometimes. And it also makes me feel bad for those leaders that are intimidated by social media. They’re just as qualified as I am to be a social leader in their discipline. The difference is they don’t have the courage to try.

That’s right. Courage solves it. In fact, courage solves just about everything, don’t you think?

How About You
Do you want to be a social leader? What’s holding you back? I have the same amount of time each day that you do. Is it that your “organization doesn’t allow the use of social media?” Well your patients, employees, and candidates are using it every day.

It’s time to go for it. I’ll help, because sometimes it can be scary at first. Hmmm…I guess courage really does sum it all up after all.

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


I've entered a whole new phase in my career. It's not just that I moved from a good job to an even cooler one, it's about how I work. I still have a long task list...I still attend meetings (although not nearly as many as I used to)...and most importantly I still have to deliver results.

Except it's different now.

My company is growing at an incredibly fast rate. We are adding new clients, and supporting existing ones that are expanding so rapidly we feel like the world of work has become a non-stop sprint. These are good problems to have!

But something happens when the expectations to deliver big results continue to build.

Big results mean making an impact. It means a mindset shift from "working on it" to "doing it." Delivering for clients (whether they are internal or external) in a rapid growth environment means pushing yourself differently.

I'm not talking about being busy. We're all busy...and we all know the person who spends so much time talking about how busy they are that we wonder if they actually do any work, or just want to announce to everyone that they are busy.

Leaders don't do that by the way. At least the legit ones don't.

There's another important piece to how my work needs to get done. Put simply, it needs to get done now. When I hear leaders say "they'll take a look at that" or "we'll pull a team together and start a dialogue around that topic" I want to throw up.

There is no time. Results matter now. Over thinking, over-planning, and over-obsessing about making everything perfect is a complete and total waste of time. Leaders that want to look perfect end up failing miserably because perfection is a fantasy. It is not attainable. 

What is attainable is progress...momentum...getting started...

...and for God's sake making decisions.

How About You
Are you waiting for the perfect time to make the absolutely right decision? Guess what, you all ready missed it. It's time to Be relentless and don't apologize for it. Get moving, make a decision, and push yourself. 


I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, September 14, 2015

What Do You Stand For?

This post is not about your political views, religious affiliation or insert-another-sensitive-topic-here. I write about leadership, and that is at the heart of the question in the title.

Your View Matters
A colleague of mine asks new leaders this question regularly. Think about that for a second. You’re all fired up to start your new gig, and the HR executive asks you directly what you stand for as a leader. What would you say? Are you ready to answer right now?

I’ll wait for a good answer…because I’m guessing you can only come up with a cliche filled ramble under this type of pressure.

"Um, teamwork…and bringing people together.”


Your Behavior Matters 
Now that you’re committed to coming up with your answer you’ll quickly realize I’ve placed a fairly significant burden on you. You now have to live up to your answer to the “what do you stand for” question. 

Think for a moment about the influential leaders in your life. One of the reasons they came to your mind so quickly just now was because of one key leadership trait.


The values they believed in as leaders were demonstrated day after day after day. Now you will do the same thing. It’s hard to sustain anything, but once leading others shifts from being your job to being who you are as a person, you will find it much easier to find that cadence of consistency.

How About You
Take some time today to write down exactly how you would answer the question. What specifically will you say? What are the words that will define you? Once you’re ready...

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Bound to Fail

I think it’s interesting that we default human nature to negative behavior. Think about it for a minute. People take the easiest path…and it’s human nature. Employees do just enough to get by…and it’s human nature. Leaders sit back and avoid conflict because….well…it’s human nature.

And we almost expect things in life to go poorly…we’re bound to fail…it’s human nature.

I’m calling B.S. on human nature. There is a huge difference between courage (which is the human nature I prefer) and laziness. Laziness is not human nature…it’s a choice…it’s an excuse…and makes people look like fools.

Self-Confidence First
When was the last time you heard someone characterize a leader’s courageous style as their “human nature?” We all know…albeit only a few leaders…whose courage seems to come naturally. 

They have no fear when it comes to trying new strategies. They don’t worry about consequences the way we think they should. 

They are rule breakers…they don’t care about norms…they just see endless possibilities.

It’s in their nature.

Bound to Win
So how do we move from “life is horrible” to “I am so committed to helping my organization win that I’ll try anything?” What is the secret that moves us from the hapless masses that quite candidly are a waste of our time…to moving in to the rarefied air of being confident, fearless, and loaded with so much courage we scare those around us?

The answer is quite simple…but the execution is difficult for most. Corporate pressure and politics cloud our ability to think clearly. They become derailers that move us away from winning for our organizations. You must do what you are scared to do…what you think is too politically complicated…and what may compromise your position. 

Others may mock you along the way. So what?

Others may openly question if you’re doing the right things. So what?

You may even end up feeling quite alone along the path to progress.  So what?

How About You
You are NOT bound to fail. You are bound to take risks…to try new things…and make a real difference.

Do not falter.
Do not look back.
Do not rejoin the hordes of leaders stuck in 1995.
Lead. Today.

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.